Major Matt Mason
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- This article refers to the action figure. See also Matt Mason (disambiguation)
Major Matt Mason was an action figure created by Mattel. He was an astronaut who lived and worked on the moon. When introduced in 1966, the figures were initially based on design information found in Life Magazine, Air Force Magazine, Jane's, and other aviation- and space-interest periodicals. Later, the line attempted to transition into the realm of science fiction.
Mason's crew (The "Men in Space")
The toy system included four astronaut action figures sharing a common body molded of a rubber-like material ("Plastizol." The same thing used in the "Mattel" "Thing Maker" toy line and "Mister Twister" line of fishing bait.) over a wire armature, with a separately-attached head and a removable space helmet based on early NASA helmets. The wire frame often suffered from metal fatigue, breaking at the elbow, knee, and hip joints, giving the toy a limited life span as a result. Each figure was also painted differently and had a separate head for each character. Mason had a dark brown crew cut and a white suit; Sgt. Storm had blond hair and a red suit; civilian astronaut Doug Davis had a yellow suit and brown hair; Lt. Jeff Long was African-American, with a blue suit (almost 2 decades before Guion Bluford became the first American black man to orbit the Earth). First-year Mason figures produced in 1966 are identified by the blue straps on his space-suit. These straps were painted black in subsequent years.
The primary alien of the sci-fi period, Captain Lazer, was a giant who towered over the astronauts. The character was originally depicted as a mysterious and possibly hostile entity, but later appeared to be the astronauts' ally against other, more hostile extraterrestrials. The figure had glowing red eyes, a glowing breastplate, and a permanently attached laser pistol in his hand. Transparent purple plastic attachments came with the figure that could alter the size and appearance of the weapon. The visual design included a Caucasian flesh tones with dark brown hair styled to resemble the Vulcan hairstyles from Star Trek. The figure's "costume" was dark blue metalflake with silver accessories and trim. Although the head, arms and legs could rotate, it was not as poseable as the astronaut figures, and was made out of hard plastic. It has been suggested that the figure was either intended for a different toy series, or may have been purchased from a Japanese toy line. The tooling for the Captain Laser body was later used to make large-size Battlestar Galactica action figures, including Colonial Warrior and the Cylon Centurion.
Callisto was a Jovian with a transparent green head, the same size as the astronauts, while Scorpio was a battery powered, purple and pink coloured, insect-like alien with a glowing head. There was also another insect-like alien called Or, who came with an "Orbitor" flying vehicle but did not make it beyond the prototype stage.
Also in the toy-line were a three-story "space station" (actually a moon base), various lunar surface and flying vehicles, mostly battery powered; and various accessories, variously powered by springs, pneumatics, strings, or batteries. What made the early run of the accessories appealing was that the designs were based directly on concepts promoted and demonstrated by NASA and the various contractors involved in America's "Race to the Moon" in the 1960s. The "Moon Suit" and the "Space Station", as well as the "Jet Pack" were actually seen as concept drawings in such magazines as Look and Life. The laser weapons were copied from designs of science fiction shows of the time.
There was also a Big Little Book, 'Moon Mission' written by George S Elrick and illustrated by Dan Spiegle published in 1968 that had the astronaut and his friends confront both giant rabbits and huge burrowing worms on the moon.
Mattel dropped the line in the mid 1970s as interest in the space program declined; however the figure is still fondly remembered, and the collector's market for this line of toys can demand top dollar for figures and accessories in as mint condition as possible. One such mint figure of the Major has reportedly accompanied several US Space Shuttle flights as an "unofficial crewman", and it has been confirmed that the figure did fly on John Glenn's Shuttle flight in 1998.
In popular culture
Major Matt Mason action figures were referenced in the pilot episode of Stargate SG-1, in which Samantha Carter defends her femininity saying, "I used to play with dolls as a kid". This prompts Kawalsky to reply, "G.I. Joe?", and she responds, "No, Major Matt Mason." As Kawalsky is unfamiliar with the toy, Ferretti explains that he was an astronaut doll and asks Carter, "Did you have that cool little backpack that made him fly?" In the first few moments of the motion picture The Wedding Planner a Major Matt Mason action figure is seen dangling on his flight backpack delivering a toy wedding cake to Barbie and Ken dolls. On Dark Shadows, the popular gothic soap opera of the late 1960s and early 1970s, David Collins had the space station in his room at Collinwood. In the British show called Here Come the Double Deckers, there is a toy shop in the episode "The Case of the Missing Doughnut" that has many Major Matt Mason items, including the Space Station. Major Matt Mason USA is the performing name of Matt Roth, a New York City-based musician and record producer, is active in the Anti-folk and DIY music scene of New York's East Village.
Major Matt Mason (film) is a planned 3D adaptation about the Mattel action figurine with the same name, with a tentative budget set at $100 million. The film is based on the script co-written by Tom Hanks and Graham Yost, and the story revolves around Major Matt Mason, an astronaut who lives and works on the Moon. The producers are now trying to clinch a deal with Robert Zemeckis for him to direct the film. The story is set on the moon, in the near future, and it is about a team of astronauts working on a base on the south pole of the moon and their fight for survival.
- Matt Goldberg (18 January 2012). "Screenwriter Graham Yost Says MAJOR MATT MASON, Starring Tom Hanks, Is a Tale of Moon Survival". Collider. Retrieved 1 February 2012.
- Amy Curtis (June 14, 2011). "Toy-Inspired Major Matt Mason To Star Tom Hanks". Retrieved May 29, 2012.
- Jordan Zakarin (13 June 2011). "Major Matt Mason: Tom Hanks Action Figure Film Announced". Huffington Post. Retrieved 6 February 2012.
- Sean (13 June 2011). "Robert Zemeckis to Direct Major Matt Mason Starring Tom Hanks". Film Junk. Retrieved 6 February 2012.
- Ethan Anderton (18 January 2012). "Screenwriter Graham Yost Dishes Details on 'Major Matt Mason' Film". First Showing. Retrieved 6 February 2012.
- Kimberly Potts (17 January 2012). "'Justified' Creator Graham Yost: 'Were We Crazy to Kill Off Mags?'". Reuters. Retrieved 6 February 2012.